In a previous life, James Cracknell spent too much time mucking about in a boat with big blokes wearing too much Lycra. He was lucky enough to win gold medals at the Sydney and Athens Olympics. After that he stupidly rowed across the Atlantic and did a race to the South Pole (both filmed by the BBC).
After Antarctica he decided the cold wasn’t for him and entered the Marathon des Sables where he did okay (his words) and came 12th… at the time that was the highest place a Britain had ever come until Danny Kendall upstaged the Olympian.
James’s MDS progress was filmed by the Discovery Channel and this was followed with another film documenting a journey from LA to New York: cycling from LA to Death Valley running through Death Valley then remounting and cycling Route 66 to Lake Erie, rowing Lake Erie then cycling to New York and finally swimming to the Statue of Liberty.
Unfortunately James didn’t complete this journey. While cycling in Arizona, James was hit on the head by a passing fuel truck. Without doubt his helmet saved him but it was touch-and-go. Placed in a coma and a two-month stay in a Phoenix hospital, James was close to the edge. It’s been a long journey and one that is ongoing.
However, in 2015 James is coming back!
Firstly, James will head to South Africa and join elite ultra runner, Nikki Kimball (read HERE) at the Richtersveld Wildrun and should all things go well, James will return to Death Valley, the place of his horrific accident and put the experience well and truly behind him by tackling the Badwater 135.
In an exclusive interview, I caught up with James, discussed his past, discussed his eagerness to push himself and asked why Richtersveld Wildrun?
“MDS was the only multi-day race I have done, so I’d like to know if it was a flook? I am also interested to see where I am. How am I after the accident? Am I recovered? I’m interested to see how I am day-after-day and I’m keen for preparing. I like the fact that I will have a focus, something to aim for.”
“I have been for sport post apartheid. SA is a perfect place for sport. I have been to the Drakensberg and Cape Town. It’s a phenomenal place…. Mountains, plains, safari, surf breaks and incredible people. A great place to be!”
The 150km Richtersveld Wildrun™ takes place in the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park over four days from 2 to 5 June. Starting and finishing at Sendelingsdrif, runners will get to experience a world of geological splendour. From the heights of Hellkloof pass, to the granite slabs of Tatasberg, the green swathe of the Orange River, the gargoyles of Halfmens Ridge and the crystal fields of the Sendelingsdrif plateau – every kilometre is unforgettable and participants are sure to leave the Richtersveld changed people.
“I haven’t been to the Northern Cape. But I relish the opportunity to see it on foot.”
Unsure of his current physical state (I am sure he is fit) I ask him about the terrain: rocks, climbing and running a marathon a day.
“Mmmm climbing? That is a little worrying! I am seeing this race as a stepping stone and I hope it will prepare me for an attempt at Badwater 135.”
It’s been a tough time for James, but he is not a person to give in. Ever the fighter, ever the one looking to push new boundaries, this experience is just one more obstacle to get over.
“It will be nice to go back to Death Valley and put some demons to rest… I need to square the circle and move on. I don’t want my life to be defined by winning two gold medals. I don’t want my life to be defined by being the guy who got hit on the head by a truck! I refuse, I will choose my path and I will not be Pigeon hold. I will create my path.”
And on that note, we conclude our chat. You can follow James and his experiences in the build up to Richtersveld Wildrun on this website in words and images. In addition, I will be following James on each and every step of his journey in South Africa. Needless to say, it’s an opportunity of a lifetime.
If you would like to join James and Nikki on this incredible experience. Limited places are available! Please use the contact form at the bottom of this post.
Credits: Images provided by James Cracknell and Mark Gillett all ©
About the Richtersveld Wildrun™
The 150km Richtersveld Wildrun™ takes place in the /Ai/Ais-Richtersveld Transfrontier Park over four days from 2 to 5 June 2015. Wildrun™ stage races have become known as some of Southern Africa’s premier multi-day trail running events, and Owen Middleton, founder and managing director of the organising company, Wildrunner, is proud to see the interest in Wildrun™ events shaping up internationally, particularly with top-class runners such as Kimball and James Cracknell.
||/Ai/Ais- Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape, South Africa
||Annually in June (2-5 June 2015)
||Sendelingsdrift to ‘Die Koei’ to Hakkiesdoring to De Hoop to Sendelingsdrift
||38.8km, 36km, 36.3km, 38.3km
||Desert, rocky, climbing
|Number of events
||One per year
|Number of entries available
||Restricted to 80 runners yearly
||3 July 2014
||R 13 395.00
||Sandy terrain, heat, climbing, remoteness
||Overall male record: 13:30:36 – Bernard Rukadza (2014)
Overall female record: 18:04:56 – Katya Soggot (2014)
||Yes – See Rules & Regulations